Technology for Online Teaching: A Guide for Educators
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- How to create educational video for online learning
- How to use popular technology tools for online learning
- Planning out a virtual classroom
- Creating content for learning management systems
- You will need a computer
- You will need a webcam
When the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in the U.S. in early 2020, it profoundly disrupted nearly every facet of daily life, including the education sector. As educators made the hasty transition to online teaching, they made do with the tools and tactics they were given. As many K-12 teachers prepare their online courses, they must lay the groundwork for the long haul. Luckily, Technology Tools for Online Education: A Guide for Modern Educators by Paul Richards is available to fill the void.
Richards draws on his thorough understanding of online communication platforms such as Google Meet and Zoom to offer a comprehensive playbook for educators that literally walks them through specific strategies and tactics that bring these and other technologies, into the online classroom. The goal is to use these platforms and other tools to make online learning interactive, immersive, and fun for both students and teachers.
You will learn how to get the most out of your school’s learning management system, popular platforms like Google Meet and Zoom, and how to incorporate document cameras, annotation tools, speech to text functionality, and Open Broadcaster Software and adapt them to your online classroom. In addition, Richards illustrates how smartphones can be put to positive and productive educational uses both in the classroom and outside of it – imagine that.
Richards will also show you how to customize and tailor your virtual classroom to reflect a dynamic learning environment and world that demonstrates the time and effort put in on behalf of your students. Technology Tools for Online Education is more than just a book, it’s part of a blended learning approach, a concept Richards advances at the outset. Blended learning environments use a hybrid approach that delivers 30% to 80% of course content online. You will also get to know the flipped classroom concept.
Teachers involved in K-12 education and beyond will find Technology Tools for Online Education: A Guide for Modern Educators a fundamental playbook filled with examples, best practices, and insights for planning fun online lessons, assignments, and group activities. Educators can take their learning to the next level by pairing the book with the Udemy course, which features video tutorials that cover the most important topics discussed in the book.
Richards, whose previously wrote The Online Meeting Survival Guide, is an expert in streaming video and online communication. His clear, down-to-earth style will bring you up to speed on the tools that are available to help you make your classes lively, engaging, and memorable. Increase your knowledge and familiarity with the best online educational tools with Technology Tools for Online Education: A Guide for Modern Educators.
- Educators - Who want to create engaging content for their online learning courses
- Administrators - Who want to learn about educational & instructional technology to help guide their co-workers
- Beginners - Great for teachers who are new to technology. If you are brand new to this, no worries, this course will assume that you have no prior knowledge of these instructional technology tools
- Tech-Savvy Teachers - Tech savvy teachers can take this course and learn some new exciting time saving tricks.
Congratulations! By choosing this course (and book), you are starting a brief, but important journey toward familiarizing yourself with popular technology tools available for online education. Technology Tools for Online Education is more than just a book, it’s part of a blended learning experience. By definition, an online course delivers roughly 80% of all content online. New, blended learning environments, use a hybrid approach that delivers 30 to 80% of course content online.
This book matches an interactive online course with a blended learning approach. In this way, educators can learn new educational technologies in the same way students would engage with online courses many educators want to create.
This book will teach you how to harness your smartphone, leverage the cloud, and connect with students using online communications. This book is about technologies that help create engaging online classroom environments. You can use it as a reference guide to learn about new ways to engage your class online. You will see how various technologies are used and engage with exercises to build your skills. Modern technology tools come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be customized to fit the needs of kindergarteners through college age students.
Here is an outline for this course:
A step-by-step guide to top educational technologies popular in the classroom
What is the flipped classroom?
Using a touch screen
Video Recording Tools
Video Communication Tools for Educators
Online Learning Tools
Beginner and Advanced Strategies for Content Creation
Planning out your Virtual Classroom
Space setup and eye contact
Content Creation Plan
Start with a Script
Types of Media
Training and Practice Exercises
Engagement Tips from a High School Teacher
Engagement Tips from a College Professor
Create a short instructional video
Zoom Meetings for Educators
Key Takeaways (*as noted in the online course):
The education world is experiencing profound change. The one constant? The classroom, whether in-person or virtual, needs to facilitate a lively and engaging learning experience for students. The online learning environment offers educators the opportunity to learn how to engage students using tools that are well-suited to this experience.
Blended learning environments afford teachers the opportunity to go deeper with students. The course that accompanies this book is intended for educators who want to improve their capabilities working with digital media, including web cams, document cameras, as well as making videos, editing images, and using video production tools. These tools will help you to create compelling materials for your online classroom.
Take the Technology for Online Teaching course to augment your skills. A great companion to this book, the course is designed for K-12 teachers and administrators, whether you’re a novice or more tech-savvy. The course can be found here. https://www.udemy.com/course/technology-for-educators/
The "Flipped Classroom" is a proven form of blended learning that flips the traditional educational process. For example, instead of giving students homework to complete between class meetings, teachers engage students by doing homework and blended learning activities in the online classroom. Many teachers report that they’re seeing students rewatch lectures and presentations and taking the time they need to fully digest the course content. Then, when students come to collaborative exercise sessions in the online classroom, they are more engaged because they are already familiar with the subject matter.
At the University of Southern California, the faculty prioritize pre-recording lectures via video so that they can produce the content they need to build engaging online courses like the ones you will learn how to create in this book.
In 2019, I visited the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) to find out how it’s "flipping the classroom one video at a time." But what is the flipped classroom? And how does this concept help students learn by bringing hands-on "homework" back into the online classroom?
As you might imagine, the need for lecture capture solutions is growing fast as teachers race to create video content to supplement student learning online. As the demand for video content has increased, the University of Southern California decided to create a studio space where professors could go to have professional videos created. I interviewed Gary San Angel, a Distance Education Operations Specialist at USC, to learn more about his program designed to "Flip Classrooms, One Video at a Time."
Outside of the studio, Gary often works with teachers in classroom and auditorium environments. Using a remotely controllable PTZOptics camera, Gary has developed a practical plan to extend the school’s capabilities for capturing lectures and increasing their “production value.” At a high level, Gary has a decent budget to work with but it’s worth noting that not all K-12 schools have access to studio spaces, or dedicated employees who can handle video production.
Gary helps teachers produce content that combines education and engagement and provides a space where they can come in to record online video content quickly and easily. It can be challenging for educators to find a natural teaching cadence when they are on camera. Adapting your educational style from the physical classroom to a digital one may require you to work within some limitations. For example, you may need to stay close to the microphone you’re using in order to be clearly heard throughout your recorded videos when you’re accustomed to walking around a classroom. But that doesn’t mean your videos have to be boring. In this book, you will learn easy ways to create engaging content on your own, without the help of video production experts. It’s important to gain familiarity with video creation technology in order to become comfortable when you capture educational content via video. Ideally, you will become comfortable enough to make and capture content that combines educational value with entertainment value — a concept known as “Edutainment.”
Pro Tip: Even if you do not have a green screen, you can create picture in picture scenes that draw student attention to specific content of interest. Consider purchasing a green screen and using the chroma-key filter in OBS to create a scene like you see above.
Finding a happy medium between education and entertainment will help you increase engagement in the online classroom. This process allows you to segue from lecture or explanation mode, to think deeply about collaborative learning in the flipped classroom.
As hybrid learning environments become more essential in modern education, a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning tactics will be built on a foundation of compelling online educational materials. You can easily create this type of online education material with a basic working knowledge of content creation, live production, and post-production, all of which you will learn in this book and my online course.
For K-12 students, flipping the classroom can be more challenging due to budget constraints. K-12 educators will need to create content for the flipped classroom knowing their students' short attention spans and that they can be easily distracted.
A worthwhile exercise for K-12 educators is to research what their students watch on YouTube. For example, many pre-K children enjoy videos made by a creator named Blippi. His videos are educational because he points out words and numbers throughout the content. His video-making style focuses on an engaging story where children watch an exciting story unfold.
Throughout this book and online course, you will learn simple tools and workflows that will allow you to create educational videos that your students will want to engage with. Meeting your students “where they are” and creating content that they are already used to consuming will help you connect with your students. Emulating leading video makers is a great way to skip the research and development process, and get right to what works.s.
The good news is that technology continues to become more affordable and easy to use. The following chapters in this book and the online course will walk you through using almost any webcam, smartphone, or consumer camera to capture the content you need to make professional online courses that will flip your classroom and teaching style for good. So what are we waiting for? Let’s learn how to create immersive videos so we can place your presentations where they belong – in your flipped classroom.
The flipped classroom concept focuses on experiential and interactive learning and is important to understanding online teaching.
The flipped classroom and blended learning environment bring homework into the online classroom, and “lectures,” presentations, and talks home so that students can engage with the content at their own pace..
Learn how to set up the virtual classroom and strategies for content creation, live production, and the post-production process.
The power of touch screens in the classroom
If there is one aspect of online learning that teachers should not overlook, it is the power of touch screens and annotation tools. These two innovative technology tools combine software and hardware to influence how students engage, connect, and retain the concepts presented to them. Annotation tools can be used to support active learning in the online classroom, whiteboard sessions, and much more. Here are five reasons you should consider using a touch screen in your classroom with annotation software:
1. Annotation Tools Support Active Learning
When you use annotation tools, you are bolstering active learning. This is because you are allowing your students to learn as they become involved in the process. When done properly, annotations can become the tools used to demonstrate collaboration. More than one student can participate with on-screen annotations in shared workspaces using a technical term called “co-annotation.” Using co-annotation, students can collaborate as a team, brainstorm, and work through complex experiments and projects in an active, hands-on way.
A great example of active learning with annotation tools is to allow students to take turns completing problem sheets. You can create interactive worksheets using Google Draw, for example, where you leave spaces for students to answer questions. An example used in the online course is a lesson about how to use a protractor. Various angles are available for students to move a protractor on in order to measure the angle. Once students have determined the answer, they can write the answer into the areas you have prepared.
Another useful example, which is reviewed in the online course, is a drag and drop scenario. Place small .png (image files with transparent backgrounds) next to areas where students can drag and drop the correct items. You can also ask students to make small drawings inside of each box. The online course includes both Google Draw documents above that you can download and use right away.
2. Grow Critical Problem-Solving Skills
No matter what age group you teach, touch screens and annotation tools can help students develop critical skills. Annotations can be easily shared with the class to illustrate problem-solving skills. Annotations can also help bolster social-emotional learning competencies through thought and exploration exercises. Teachers can use annotations as a tool to reveal new information on top of the media. For example, teachers can use digital ink tools to annotate on top of a picture of the human body, to illustrate body parts. In this way, digital ink tools can provide context and improve students' understanding of a subject by revealing new information on top of their existing perspectives when they see an image.
3. Improve Classroom Management
When students are engaged, collaborating, and having fun doing so, they are less likely to be distracted. Captivating your students with colorful annotation tools can improve classroom management. Overall, this equates to your class running more smoothly and becoming more manageable, both in-person and online. For example, use annotation tools to highlight daily classroom attendance by using a list of students in your class and annotating over the document. One way you could do this is by printing out a list of your students on a piece of paper and showing the paper on video with a document camera. You can also do this in a 100% digital fashion by sharing your screen to show a list of students and using digital annotation tools to highlight each student whois present.
Pro Tip: Consider customizing the attendance experience by drawing funny icons or notes to demonstrate how well you know each student in your class.
4. Offer More Diversified Learning Opportunities
Annotation tools also open the door to additional opportunities and learning methods for your students. As you probably already know, no two kids learn the same way. For example, kinesthetic learners want to get up and move around more as they interact with a touch screen. Multimedia will attract those who are visual or auditory learners. And for those who learn more effectively by reading, you can capture your lessons using the video recording tools discussed in this book to display on-screen notes with a document camera, and distribute them for review before or after a class.
5. Co-annotation Makes Learning More Fun
Online learning can be challenging for students for a variety of reasons. But by developing engaging content and using co-annotation, teachers can make learning more fun and immersive. Using co-annotation tools, students can easily interact with their peers on a more frequent basis to improve learning and social skills. Students can collaborate, problem-solve as a team, and motivate each other.
Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal to ensure a successful curriculum. Incorporate annotation tools and touch screens in your online courses and see how they transform your online classroom and students’ learning.
Touchscreens and annotation features will help make your teaching more interactive and learning more fun for students.
Use annotation tools not only to highlight your lessons but demonstrate how well you know each student.
Mobile phones in the classroom have always been a controversial topic. Some teachers worry about the potential for student distraction, while others have decided to use them because they offer some positive learning benefits. The reality is that students, especially those ages 12-18, use smartphones on a daily basis. For most, smartphones are their device of choice, and nearly all 95% of all teens have them (Pew Research, 2018). Because this device is so commonplace, it makes sense to leverage its benefits.
From a distance learning perspective, a smartphone is a tool that can be used for research, as a mobile diary, a voice recorder, for making videos, and much more. As a modern educator you need to learn how to promote the educational uses of smartphones in a constructive way that supports learning.
Here are four simple ways to facilitate the educational use of smartphones:
#1 Mobile Diary
Think about it, how many times have you had a great idea in the classroom, only to forget about it later because you didn’t write it down? With a smartphone, you can eliminate that from happening ever again. Encourage students to use their smartphones as mobile diaries. The benefits of journaling and recording observations, thoughts, and feelings, are well-documented. As an educational tool, keeping a mobile diary can help students improve their writing, problem-solving skills, increase self-awareness and motivation, and reduce stress.
Help your students learn how to create various types of journals. Perhaps your course would benefit from a motivation journal, or a gratitude journal, a subject matter-specific journal, a success journal used to document successes, or a free-form journal. You can encourage students to type directly into their smartphones using the onscreen keyboard or use voice commands to jot down ideas or concepts as they journal. Journaling is a great example of a transferable skill that will help students become better learners. It can also help students assemble and convey complex emotions and ideas. Consider asking students to submit their journals, which will give you a deeper look at their thought processes and help you get to know them better.
#2 Email Usage
People who have smartphones tend to enjoy the convenience of being able to check their email with the tap of a touch screen. Notifications can be set up when new messages are available, and studies show that on average, most people check their email more than ten times a day. Email is also one of the best ways to stay in touch with parents and students. While students may prefer text messaging over email, email is a better source of professional communication. Students will eventually be expected to manage their own emails, and you can help them become better prepared for that future.
Consider sending students personalized emails as an additional “touchpoint” apart from your learning management system. You can use email to simply check in with students to make sure they are keeping up with their online learning. Use email to check in with parents to ensure they are informed about their children's progress. In general, it’s best to send students and parents individual emails because many people do not want to “reply to all” with private information about their children. Consider using the power of a private, personalized email for most of your online communications. Use email to send messages to a large list of students or parents for announcements and celebrations.
#3 Your Learning Management System
Your learning management system (LMS) can be used with a smartphone. I have yet to find a LMS system that has not been designed to accommodate both students and teachers access with a smartphone. The Google Classroom, for example can be easily accessed from a mobile phone.
Let parents know that their children can access the LMS l from their smartphones. You may want to encourage students to download the LMS app and enable notifications so they can stay informed about course content, access assignments, and grades.
#4 Completing Forms
Teachers have many forms, paperwork, and essential documents to complete on a regular basis. Sometimes, being able to fill out Google forms in the palm of your hand is preferred. You can gain valuable insights into your students’ progress by using online forms that students can fill out from their smartphones. You can even take forms a step further and offer online trivia and use online quiz tools such as Kahoot. Kahoot is a tool many educators use to turn forms into fun online quizzes that students can take online. This is a fun way to gamify your lessons. Perhaps you can organize students into teams and keep score of their group quiz scores. Turning learning into a game can make students more engaged with your lessons.
Smartphones as Educational Tools
Smartphones are advanced technological tools that help students learn and teachers teach and improve workflows. In the educational setting, technology can enhance the learning experience and give students the ability to engage with content in new ways. One of the most popular smartphone solutions are iOS devices — iPhones and iPads —many of which are used in online classrooms.
Historically, mobile phones have often been banned from classrooms. But when educators start to look at iOS devices as educational tools, it’s easy to uncover new learning potential.
Use It as An Educational Resource
Smartphones put the world at students’ fingertips, which can be good and a little bit frightening. Yet, this is the reality of the world we live in and educators are mentors and guides for productive uses for smartphones. When you have an iOS device on hand, you can easily research projects, connect with another classroom down the hall or contact a respected expert in a particular subject who can speak to you and the class with the power of an internet connection. WiFi connectivity has become faster and more prevalent in many schools and homes. Still, you may find that your WiFi connection is better in some locations versus others. You can instantly check your WiFi internet connection by using Google and searching for “Internet Speed Test.” Google will return the download and upload speeds for your device’s internet connection.
Educators have many tools they can use to limit potential distractions from smartphones. Ideally educators should be able to shepherd student learning by highlighting the correct way to use smartphones for educational purposes and identifying potentially un-productive uses. For example, educators can recommend the use of purpose-built applications which limit the open world wide web to a specific set of tools and information. If students are being asked to use smartphones for research, consider recommending a specific app and demonstrating how it can be used for educational purposes.For example, if your class is learning about space, recommend that your students download the NASA app and show them how to use it. You never know when students will take learning home with them via an interesting app. Another great app that students can take home and use at night is called “Star Chart.” This app allows students to hold their phone up to the sky to reveal planets and stars that are all around the world.
Something that makes smartphones so profound is the fact that you can take them with you anywhere. From your car, to down the street, and across the town, as long as you have cellular service (or WiFi) you have a computer in your pocket.This means that you are more than capable of going out notes, or support on the go. You can even use it to capture videos of public speeches or interviews to present to your class.
Pro Tip: Try out the Google Assistant which can identify plant types, help with translations, and store notes about a variety of topics.
Use It for Language Translation
Do you have a student who speaks better in Spanish than English? If so, use the language translation applications on your device to converse with that student without language barriers getting in the way. Duolingo is a popular translation application which is free to download and supports over 30 languages. Google Translate is a great free tool as well, which works directly inside of any Chrome web-browser. You can gain more features by downloading the app onto your phone. Google Translate supports over 100 languages. Both of these apps give students the option to speak in their native language and can promote a more inclusive learning environment.
Pro Tip:Try Google Translate and see how easy it is to bridge language barriers with the conversation tool.
Smartphone devices are filled with incredible features and offer countless applications to increase collaboration between you and your students. For example, students can use their smartphone devices to stay connected to your online learning resources with the LMS (Learning Management System) app your school uses. Students can view and engage with the content you create for online learning segments via their smartphones.
Pro Tip: Show students how easy it is to use a speech-to-text function to engage with course materials. The use of this function may lead to higher levels of engagement with your content. You can also show students how to enable text to speech (demonstrated in the online course), which \reads pages of information to students automatically.
While there are some teachers who remain against phones in the classroom, there is no denying the benefits especially, in a distance learning scenario. No matter what age group you teach, a smartphone can improve the efficiency of your classroom. For example, if you teach pre-school, i check out apps like ABCmouse, Hungry Caterpillar Play School, and many more.
People across the globe and in every industry are taking advantage of the iOS platform and smartphone devices. Despite concerns over the improper use of mobile devices in the classroom (online or physical), these devices have a role to play in motivating student engagement with content and learning.
It’s easy to use a smartphone to create content for the online classroom.
Students can use their smartphones to journal, create diaries, and for email.
Google Suite for Education is the gold standard for educators and students. Use Google Forms to facilitate student feedback.
Learn the use cases for the top education apps designed for the online classroom.
In the online course, view a curated selection of the best apps for preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school students.
Gamify your online lessons. Gamification is a great tool for educators.
Learn best practices for using iOS devices in the online classroom (iPhone, iPad) to make learning fun and interactive.
Understand and experiment with the use cases for speech-to-text, and text-to-speech.
Identify apps that help you devise creative assignments and lessons that will enrich students’ learning.
Using an iOS Device (iPhone or iPad) in the Classroom
The world that has been cultivated today relies so heavily on technology, and for good reasons. As new advancements come to the market, so do new opportunities and ways to improve quality of life. In the educational industry, in particular, technology is being leveraged more than ever to enhance the learning experience and give students more ability to prosper. One of those rising methods is using iOS devices within classrooms.
In a traditional sense, phones were often banned from classrooms, but not today. When you implement an iOS device correctly and optimize it for its true learning potential, then it can be a great asset.
Use It as An Educational Resource
Think about how cool it would be to contact someone face to face with just a push of a button. When you have an iOS device on hand, you can easily reach out to another classroom down the hall or contact a respected expert in a particular subject who can speak to you and the class. This not only shows your students how to utilize your resources to get answers, but it is much more engaging than merely Googling something.
Something that makes iOS devices so profound is that you can take them with you anywhere. From your car, to down the street, to across the town, as long as you can connect to WiFi (unless you don’t need that), you will have a functioning resource with you. This means that you are more than capable of going out with a research group or a field trip and have something to use for reference, notes, or support on the go. You can even use it as a way to capture live videos of public speeches or interviews to later present to your class.
Use It for Language Translation
Do you have a student who speaks better in Spanish than in English? If so, you can use language translation applications on your device to converse with that student without language barriers getting in the way. This ability gives that particular student the option to speak their native language or not, and that, in and of itself, can promote a more diverse, comfortable learning environment.
iOS devices are filled with incredible features and can contain countless applications that can increase collaboration between you and your students. For example, you can use your device as a primary place to hold keynotes. These keynotes can then be transferred to create meaningful documents to be used later during sessions.
People across the globe and in every industry are taking advantage of iOS devices and their excellent benefits, and that includes educational sectors. Despite old-school beliefs, never underestimate the power that iOS devices have on getting students to connect, engage, and foster up a successful classroom. If you are ready to give this method a go, then try these tips listed above to modernize your lessons and establish a better learning space for your students to thrive on.
A document camera allows teachers to capture an area of interest and use the content for pre-recorded videos and live presentations. Document cameras magnify objects and make them easier to see on a student’s mobile phone, a projector,and any computer that’s used to display the image. Document cameras can quickly become a go-to for teachers because they are easy to use with almost any software that supports webcams. Document cameras enable teachers to show students items of interest during a discussion and are even more useful when paired with annotation tools. In short, document cameras are a great tool that bridges the gap between physical items in the classroom, and the digital world of blended learning.
For online learning, the quality of recorded video content is a priority. From writing samples, to scientific specimens, maps, and more, document cameras help you bring objects into the online classroom to make topics come alive. Overall, this device is a win-win for both teachers and students. Document cameras are also incredibly versatile so that a teacher of preschool or high school, and beyond can take advantage of their benefits.
Early Education Tips
Do you have a fun science experiment planned? Using a document camera allows students to get a better view of it as a group.
Try using your document camera to show a calendar of events and projects to help students stay organized and aware of upcoming activities.
Use the document camera to help students to learn new words. For example, eliminate ‘A,B,C’ letters and ask students to rearrange letters to make new words.
Allow students who absorb information better visually rather than verbally, to learn with engaging visuals. This is a great way to speak to multiple types of learners in an educational setting. Speak the information and write it down at the same time,while showing visuals of the exercises you planned.
Middle School Tips
Math teachers may use document cameras to display math problems for the entire class, just like they would in a physical classroom on a whiteboard. They can clearly show the steps students should take to solve the problem.
With a document camera, show students how to use calculators with more advanced features and share handwritten notes to accompany assignments and lessons. If you are using digital notes, you can add multiple pages to your note-taking instead of erasing notes on a whiteboard or blackboard.
Pro Tip: In the online course, you will learn how to quickly take screen captures of your digital annotations. Remember that with digital notes, you don’t necessarily need to erase your work. Just save a screenshot or create a new page, save it, and keep working.
Try using your document camera to review sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation to show students where they can fix errors.
High School Tips
Consider displaying pages from textbooks and have your students follow along.
For a biology class, use the document camera to enhance live imagery so students can get a good view of specimens close up.
Refer to a world map you have on the wall and show a smaller one that you can draw on with your document camera.
Look for small objects and details that you can magnify and bring to life. A great example might be a school yearbook where you share information about school clubs.
For art projects, use the document camera to display various aspects of student work.Consider showing art techniques and focus students’ attention on specific details of interest.
Document cameras can easily share progress on scientific solutions if your class is working on complex chemistry problems and physics formulas. By sharing breakthrough moments, you will activate group engagement and resolve confusion.
In short, document cameras are a great tool for engaging with your students. Later in this book, you will learn how to use document cameras with other sources of media to create engaging videos.
In online classrooms, you can select a document camera as your webcam, or it can be shared as a secondary webcam with annotation tools. In Zoom, for example, use the “Share Screen” button to access the “Advanced” screen sharing tab. This option allows you to share the video from your document camera in a screen share session while your main webcam is still active.
In this way, you can use the Zoom digital ink tools to annotate on top of your document camera’s video feed. The same digital ink tools that are available in Zoom during a normal screen share, will also be available to you when you select your document camera in Zoom’s “Advanced” screen share area.
Pro Tip: Zoom is a great tool for creating short educational videos. You can use your webcam at the start of a short video, and then share your document camera during your lesson. Once you start using the annotation tools, you will really be able to create engaging videos.
Of course you can also use your document camera as a webcam source in normal video recording software to create engaging video content for your learning management system. Document cameras will allow you to share in-depth concepts and create compelling video content for students to enjoy at their own pace. Document cameras are extremely versatile, and once you learn how to incorporate them into your online videos, your students will look forward to the visual richness of your lessons. Document cameras can provide unique views of materials in your classroom that can transport students directly into the educational details of many lessons.
Document cameras are a useful tool in the online classroom.
Document cameras can be used with digital annotation tools.
Essential Video Recording Tools for Educators
From video recordings using things such as talking heads, live production, screen captures with webcam to the time-consuming post-production process, this area of education can be quite busy. In addition, depending on the type of media you choose can also play a significant factor in your efficiency in this area. But one thing for sure is that video recording can be a very valuable resource for students, and it is worth implementing into your classroom. Because of that reason, here are some essential video recording tools to not only make your life easier, but to optimize your successes.
Ezvid is a wonderful video recording tool that is 100% free. With this, you are able to create and edit recorded videos, all while being able to capture everything that shows up on your computer if you wish. From splitting your recordings, adding different audio and texts, to controlling the speed of the video, you can do it all with this resource.
Blueberry Flashback Express Recorder
Though this may seem like just an everyday recorder, it is actually made to help you capture your screen during live webcam sessions. With this, you can either upload your videos to YouTube or save it to your desktop as a video file to share with your students later on your own time. This means you can kill two birds with one stone and have a video of your session for students to reference if need be.
The next one is Screenr. This is a web-based screen recorder that works directly form the web. This means there is no installation needed or any hassle with software issues. All you have to do is go to the website, log in, and launch Java to run it. With Screenr, you can expect to have your screen captured with the record button, and simply stop it when you are done.
Open Broadcasting Software (OBS)
This is another free tool and extremely easy to use for video recording. You can download it on either Windows, Linux, or Mac, and is an entirely open-source to record live streaming. To start recording, in OBS, click on the "Sources" box, and navigate to "Window Capture." If you want to share more than just your streaming screen, you can always choose "Desktop Capture" instead.
Video recordings are a valuable way to enhance the overall experience within your classroom. It gives students another primary resource to use, and it is much more personalized to them than if they were to try to find the information again somewhere else online. But as any teacher knows, implementing video recordings can feel time-consuming. But this method should not have to feel like a burden, and with the right tools, it doesn't have to be. Try out these essential video recording tools listed above to see which one you personally like the best, and take advantage of the convenience it provides. In the end, both you and your students will benefit.
Being able to communicate effectively with your students using video communication tools is essential for modern education. Video communications can strengthen the connection between teachers, students, and parents to foster supportive learning environments.. When you use software such as Zoom, Big Blue Button, or Google Meet, you are leveraging video communication tools to extend the boundaries of your teaching. Simple class discussions can happen via online meetings which can transform into interactive activities and learning sessions leveraging two-way communication tools.
Many teachers have been forced to transition from an in-person classroom to a virtual one. Through this process, students have lost the structure imposed by the normal school environment. The first step to making online communications effective for your virtual classroom involves laying ground rules and expectations. Students benefit from structure especially during a time when they are adapting to a new environment for distance learning. Two way online communication tools can enhance the overall learning experience for your students in ways that a one-way learning journey via recorded video cannot. Two way communications almost allow teachers to reach out of the screen in comparison to recorded videos that can be paused by students at any time.
Drake Finney, an elementary school teacher from Lake Havasu, Arizona says his students enjoy “Motivational Mondays.” During Motivational Moday’s Drake plays a video on YouTube from a famous motivational speaker, to start class. Finding a structured cadence to your class routine will help students look forward to their time online with classmates. Other examples include, live trivia days, competitive class competition days, and funky Fridays.
Pro Tip: When you share a video with your class in a screen sharing session, be sure to select the “share with audio” option.
Beyond the obvious injection of fun, and a foundation of structure, another important part of online communications is engagement. It may be challenging to get students to engage with you or each other in the online classroom. The College of Education at the Minnesota State University, published a report in 2007 entitled “93% of all communications are non-verbal.” Considering the importance of non-verbal communication can help you orchestrate positive student participation during online lessons. For example, just asking students turn on their webcams, will allow you to get non-verbal reactions just by seeing their faces. You can use non-verbal cues, to help you judge when it’s appropriate to ask for student participation during your lessons.
Other popular tools in the virtual environment include the chat and messaging functions, and emoji reactions. For example, emoji reactions are available in both Zoom and Google Meet, yet many students might not know how or when to use them. Consider showing your class how you would like them to use built-in tools for “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” and prompt your students to use the tools at various times throughout the online meeting. This is a great way to enable students to provide non-verbal feedback without interrupting the lesson.
Pro Tip: Zoom is temporarily free for K-12 organizations. You can learn more about this offer at https://zoom.us/education.
Other forms of engagement that work well in the classroom include live polling and trivia. Consider using Kahoot to host interactive quizzes. Kahoot can also be used to organize your students into teams where they work together to answer questions. Polls are a great way to gather information about what your students know and what they do not know, before and after an online meeting. Consider sending Kahoot polls to your class a few hours prior to your next online meeting and use the results to improve your lesson planning and teaching.
Ask students to share their perspectives with the rest of the class. When you ask students to share their thoughts you serve as a moderator and should consider giving every student an equal chance to participate. This process can include short or long pauses, but it’s important to offer opportunities for students to feel comfortable speaking up.
As a moderator in the online classroom, aim to achieve something called “Equity of Voice”. Equity of Voice is a concept that refers to the process of giving everyone in a meeting or classroom an equal chance to speak and participate. Consider starting an online class with a moment to engage each student. Perhaps ask each student to suggest one topic of interest or question that can be included in the day’s presentation. Equity of voice is also about listening — students learn the value of listening to others and respecting others’ opinions.
Another way to look at managing online classroom engagement is called “Equilibrium of Voice”. Teachers can embrace Equilibrium of Voice to promote collaboration on projects without requiring every student to participate equally. Equilibrium of Voice is a communication strategy that attempts to maximize online classroom performance based on goals set by an established agenda. A class with ideal equilibrium of voice optimizes the most relevant speakers in a group based on the established agenda and the participants' roles in the overall group. An example of this might bet student presentations where a small group of students makes a presentation to peers.
Equity of Voice is ideal for team collaboration during brainstorming sessions in class. During the early stages of class projects, it’s important for everyone to be heard during crucial team-building exercises. It’s also important to give students the feeling of being part of the overall class by being listened to and respected. Once your class reaches more in-depth topics of interest, subsequent meetings will benefit from an equilibrium of voice where students respect the importance of taking turns within collaboration projects. Equilibrium of Voice is a tool that offers subject matter experts additional focus based on the agreed-upon agenda.
It can take time to adjust your classroom teaching style to make the most out of online communication tools.
Online communication tools like Google Meet and Zoom will allow you to give students real-time advice and guidance. These platforms can be used for one-on-one sessions or group collaboration projects. Carefully consider your role as a moderator so that students can get the most out of the group experience. The teacher’s role as a “moderator” also extends to proper management of “breakout” rooms. As the teacher, you can move in-between virtual breakout sessions that you set up outside of the main Zoom meeting, for example. It’s important to check in regularly to help students stay on track and make sure one student does not dominate the conversation in the break out rooms. The benefit of breakout rooms in an educational setting is that students get more time to speak, listen, and collaborate with others. But watch out for groups that veer off course — a good reason for teachers to pop into break out rooms!
Pro Tip: When you set up Zoom breakout rooms, you will be asked if you would like to manually or randomly assign students. If you are concerned about breakout groups going off course, consider creating groups ahead of time so that you have a good mix of student personalities for collaboration. You can then prioritize which breakout groups you will visit to make sure everyone stays on track.
Zoom is free for K-12 educators. Other platforms include Big Blue Button, Adobe Connect, and Google Meet. Google Meet is heavily integrated into Google Suite and Google Suite for Education.
Learn about video discussion tools and the types of video collaboration tools for distance learning that enable you and your students to watch videos together, chat, and create time-stamped notes. There are also features for grading and quiz-style voting. Turn quizzes and tests into games (gamify them).
Education is migrating online at warp speed. Preparing your virtual classroom is a relatively new topic that many educators need to spend time on. A virtual classroom is a term used to describe everything students interact with online, including the videos they watch and the online tests that they take. For many teachers their virtual classroom encompasses the background scene for their recorded videos, and the engagement strategies that they use to encourage students to learn.
The idea of a virtual classroom, spans beyond your regularly scheduled virtual office hours and therefore it includes each touchpoint students interact with in your online learning offering. Teachers who can transform the best parts of their classroom into a virtual environment will be able to give students new and improved ways of learning. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while planning your virtual classroom.
What is your consistent theme?
Consistency is key to creating a cohesive virtual classroom experience for students. Consider the elements of your classroom that make it special and different. How can these translate into a virtual classroom? Perhaps you can take a picture of your physical classroom and use it as a virtual background.
Have you ever considered the power of colors in education? Colors can be used to imply deeper meaning to students and support your lessons in ways that other forms of communication cannot.
Here is a list of colors and the emotions that they can be used to invoke.
Blue: Blue is a color that can be used to set a calm and serene stage for your students. Blue is the color of the sky and it can be associated with a sense of tranquility. Warm blue tones can be used in your lessons theme to create calmness which can offset stressful situations or content.
Orange: Orange is an exciting color. It can be used in energetic ways to convey new ideas and information. Orange is generally associated with citrus fruits and therefore can convey health and energy. Orange is a great color to use to help spark creativity and give your lessons a sense of adventure.
Yellow: Yellow is a joyous color that is fun and happy. Yellow is the color of the sun and it’s therefore friendly and comforting. Yellow can be used to convey happy thoughts but be careful about using it too frequently. Some shades of yellow are used for caution signs because it can be alarming.
Red: Red is a very powerful and emotional color. Red is used for stop signs because it grabs your attention with a sense of urgency. Some shades of red are great for labeling warnings, or areas of your lessons that require immediate attention. Red is a bold color, so make sure to use it sparingly, and avoid uses that could cause frustration or anger.
Brown: Brown is a stable and earthy color. Brown is the color of the earth and therefore it’s associated with simplicity and honesty. Brown is a great color because it’s unlikely to distract from your lessons core message.
Pink: Pink is a color that represents peace and love. It’s a color associated with friendliness and femininity. Like blue, pink can be used to convey a sense of openness. In general, darker shades of pink can be more emotions and lighter shades of pink are more soothing and peaceful.
Purple: Purple is a color that is bold yet not overpowering. Purple is associated with royalty and spirituality. The color is attractive without being overly attention grabbing. Therefore purple is a great color when used as an accent.
Green: Green is the color of growth. Green can be used very powerfully when used in association with money. Green also represents nature and life in the world outdoors. In general, green is a color that stimulates movement and energy. There are many shades of green which can vary in meaning. Light shades of green are youthful and they can bring a sense of energy to your lessons. Darker shades of green can convey a sense of wellbeing and permanency.
Perhaps you can find a few images or color schemes that can be used consistently throughout your online materials. There is a great website called colorcombos.com that you can use to find exciting color combinations to use in your classroom. Take some time to plan out your theme so that it will be instantly recognizable toyour students. You can include these colors and themes in your virtual backgrounds, on slides, quizzes, assessments, and video content.
Whether it is a virtual or real background, make it fun and creative. The more vibrant your background is, the easier it will be for your students to stay engaged and connected. Check out what some of the top YouTubers are doing, and see just how easy it is to position yourself against a fun background. Consider putting pictures on the wall, using a colored light, or a green screen. Maybe you can even place a living thing in your background like a fish bowl or a plant. Imagine how fun it would be to refer to your pet fish at the start of each class.
Your background does not have to be spectacular or extravagant, but something as simple as a dash of color, some interesting props or a virtual classroom background will do the trick to set the tone of the class. Paying attention to your background shows that you care, and it can become a topic of casual conversation as you upgrade, rotate, and change your background. You can use physical objects in your background as ice-breakers and conversation starters.
The Importance of Good Lighting
Good lighting is vital when it comes to planning your virtual classroom. You want students to see you easily and you want to avoid looking scary. Yes, the software and equipment you use can dictate the output. Lighting is a key ingredient for making your video content successful.
Try testing your video to ensure that your face is not too light or too dark. Position yourself near a window, or move the lighting around in your room. A few simple adjustments can make a big difference. Record a few sample video clips from different angles and play them back. Which one looked the best? You can try adjusting the angle of your webcam or tilting your laptop screen if your webcam is built-in. Simple adjustments make a big difference.
No Outside Distractions
Be mindful of outside distractions during your time online. If you happen to live on a busy street where traffic is constantly driving by, those noises (beeps and vrooms) can really take away from your lesson. Outside noises are distracting, and they can break the attention of your students. To fix this, make sure you set up your virtual classroom in a quiet space where you can close windows and doors to reduce unwanted noise. You may want to put a sign on your door that lets your family and friends know when you are recording a video.
Create Interactive Learning Activities
In a traditional classroom, it’s relatively easy to plan a learning activity and tell students to push their desks together and collaborate on an assignment. But in a virtual setting, you will need to learn how to use new tools for small group collaboration. Consider coming up with a few ideas that are relevant to your lesson and that will genuinely promote genuine interaction. For example, you can start with some classic ice-breaker exercises such as “if you were stranded on an island, what would be one thing you would bring?” You can adapt classic ice-breaker exercises to fit your classroom. For example, “If you had to take the mid-term exam tomorrow, what is one book you would bring?” This will help encourage conversation between students and helps them to feel more involved, even at a distance.
During your first couple of interactive learning exercises consider starting with icebreaker questions that will allow your class to get to know each other. Then you can use small group breakout rooms and take a large classroom and divide students into smaller groups. In small breakout groups, you can decide to randomly assign students into a specific group size, or manually place students into small groups of your choosing. As the teacher, you can broadcast questions to all small groups in order to give them questions to work on together.
Pro Tip: If you are using Zoom and you do not see the “Breakout” rooms option, you need to ask your Zoom moderator to turn this feature on. If the feature is on, you should see an icon that looks like four squares.
Planning a virtual classroom takes time and effort.But once you have the formula nailed down, you can repeat it with each class of students. Not all teachers take the time to plan their virtual classroom experience and it can make a big difference from the student perspective. Remember that most virtual classrooms are a work in progress, and they will become more engaging and interactive with each session. It is important to establish a core foundation for a new semester or marking period and start off with a good first impression. Creating a powerful virtual classroom will give your students a great learning environment for online education.
Learn to set up and build a dynamic virtual classroom. Make your virtual classroom an engaging, fun, and collaborative space. Create an environment where students want to participate and engage with one another and with you.
Having a plan in place for your online course is essential. Start with an outline and complete it with detailed information for each major lesson. Planning an online course requires a focus on digital assets that will enrich your presentations. These assets will be recorded and uploaded to your learning management system. Therefore, the way you think about preparing your online course will include a variety of media and use some of the technology we have talked about in this book.
Think about flipping your classroom when you are planning an online course. In a traditional classroom, students would listen to the lecture or presentation, and then do the homework at home. But with a flipped classroom, it’s the other way around for reasons that we have already explained. In a nutshell, this is an instructional method that combines both student engagement and active learning styles with online learning. As a result, it gives students the ability to digest your online course content at their own pace. Your online course should be presented in such a way that students receive clear guidance and clarity about the learning objectives.
Considerations for Online Courses
Provide Students With the Benefits: At the very beginning of your online course, share what your students will learn from the course. Review the learning outcomes and let students know how their investment in learning will positively impact them. You can enrich your storytelling capabilities with success stories, short video clips, and images that resemble the successful outcomes that you want students to visualize. In the end, they should be excited about learning and see a logical, sequenced flow for the course.
Videos vs. Live Sessions: Go through your lessons and separate them into two different categories: lower-order targets, and higher-order objectives. As a rule of thumb, the things that will require more exploration, demonstration, and discussion should be live sessions. Use your pre-recorded video lessons to review core concepts and fundamentals. Think about your videos as time spent with students, where they can pause what they are learning and do research. Therefore, you can cover a lot of ground and cover in-depth research assignments inside your videos. Then you can use upcoming sessions to further review the content students learned from the recorded videos they watched.
Nailing Down Activities: Take some time to research activities you can do with students to keep them interested and connected. For instance, for a science topic, would experiments be better, or a group project? Think about activities having multiple starting points. Perhaps you talk about an upcoming activity in your recorded videos and share some successful outcomes from a previous class. Then you can try the activities in a virtual classroom setting, and take things further in small breakout groups.
Collaboration and Feedback: How will you and your students collaborate? Will it be via live Zoom sessions or a specific journaling exercise? Consider asking students if they enjoyed or found the activity helpful. Ask your students to provide non-verbal feedback with a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Assign students projects to collaborate on using your LMS system. Students may also suggest their own online collaboration methods and submit their progress each week.
Keep it Colorful: No one, especially students, want to watch a dull, boring, and lifeless video. Make your slides colorful, and be creative to keep students’ attention. This is especially helpful for visual learners. Consider including popular memes and slides with a joke or two to make students laugh.
Don’t Forget About Parents: Incorporate time to update parents in your plan. Having the support and input of parents is critical for a successful online course. s Parents need to know what their children are learning and how they’re learning.
Most teachers, especially those who are partaking in online education for the first time, will go through trial and error stages. You may have to re-record videos or remake old presentations until you are satisfied with their quality. For instance, you might find that you enjoy Zoom for live class sessions much more than Google Meet even though Google Meet is integrated into your Google Classroom workspace. You may realize that off-the-cuff informal video updates really “click” for your students’ learning journey. An example of an “off-the-cuff” video would be a recording you make in an informal manner with your cell phone. You may find that short video clips recorded outside of the classroom, help show off your human side to students. You will easily be able to tell the type of video content that is working based on student engagement. The best thing you can do is move forward, tweak your methods where you see fit, and continue towards creating a plan that works for everyone.
Learn the importance of creating a course outline and content creation plan for your online classroom. Clarify how the lesson and course outcomes apply to students’ lives. Understand when to make videos vs. when to do live demos and presentations.
Learn how to use the online classroom for inquiry- and project-based work. Create collaborative projects for students and encourage commenting in the learning management system. Learn how breakout sessions/rooms can be used. Think about how students will demonstrate they are learning.
Keep parents in the loop. Communicate regularly with them and solicit their feedback and input. Remember that distance learning is likely a new concept for them.
As an educator, you probably never thought you would be editing photos as part of your everyday routine. Yes, teachers are being asked to become more technologically advanced, and yes, it requires some new skills. But the good news is that editing photos is now easier than ever with cloud-based tools. In this chapter, and using the basic and advanced PIXLR online tutorial videos which I’ve included, you will learn how to edit photos and create beautiful images for your online courses.
PIXLR, is a free online photo editing software that you can use with any online web browser. The tool is so easy to use that you will likely find hundreds of uses for it as your work becomes more digitally focused. PIXLR comes with a huge library of free stock images that will help you bring your presentations to life. Use PIXLR ito customize the media (video clips, digital images, etc.) that you want to incorporate into your virtual classroom, along with the colors and themes you want to maintain in your materials. For example, if you are teaching a lesson on Africa, you can quickly import images of life in Africa. PIXLR enables you to customize these images before you download them for use in your online videos or Google slides.
In the online course, you are given a sample PNG file that is used to integrate your webcam video source with another source of media. This is an advanced use of PIXLR but it uses a simple process for video content creation. In an upcoming tutorial video, you will learn how to use this image overlay process to mix your webcam video source with document cameras and/or Google Slides presentations to make visually engaging video presentations for your students.
As an exercise, customize this PNG file to fit an upcoming lesson and use it to make a customized video. PNG files are unique because they can have transparent areas unlike JPG files. The PNG file you create will have space for a title at the top, an area for a webcam, and a main area for media, such as document cameras, videos, and presentations. You can use the transparent areas of PNG files to layer media in video software. For example, you may want to put a colored border around an image to fit into your lesson’s theme. You may decide to use multiple layers to create your final image which could include a top border layer, a title layer, and a logo. Plus, once it’s completed, you can use it over and over again without much additional work.
Start using PIXLR by visiting PIXLR.com with any web browser. PIXLR comes in two options: choose from PIXLR X, which is the easy version and PIXLR E, which is the advanced version. For simple edits such as adding text on top of an existing image, use PIXLR X. For more advanced features such as cutting out images and layering them together, use PIXLR E.
For your first project, open PIXLR X and you will see the main dashboard. You can choose to search through your history, which is handy for pulling up past projects. You can also create a new image based on custom requirements or standard sizes, choose from a large selection of stock photos, or simply open an image that you already have on your computer. Finally, you can also open up an image available via any URL on the internet.
(This is the main PIXLR X workspace with the PNG file from above open).
Pro Tip: Right click just about any image on the internet and select “open image in new tab.” The URL in the address bar is the URL that you use to import that image directly into PIXLR.
The Menu Bar Options
Take some time to familiarize yourself with the menu bar selections.
Below is a list of menu bar functions:
File: Save, open, close, and print
Edit: Home to the cut, paste, select all, and undo options
Image: Flip, resize, and crop images
Layer: Manage different layers for your project; you can have one photo open on top of another (two layers)
Adjustment: Alter the image's composition and appearance (color balance, levels, and exposure)
Filter: Add lighting filters to images(give thema glow or sharpen)
View: Zoom in or out
Language: Select your language
Font: Select a font if you want to type over your image
Help: Assistance for your questions
Freebies: Discover fun backgrounds, vector images, and other creative resources.
Once you select an option to get started, you will enter the main PIXLR editing area. For this tutorial, click the “OPEN IMAGE” button and select the PNG file included with the course. If you do not have this file from the online course, choose any file that you would like to learn about PIXLR with. OPEN IMAGE will open up the selected image and launch the PIXLR editor. In the center, you will see your main working area with your selected image. On the left hand side, you will see the main toolbar. On the right side, you will see the layering system which allows you to select the layer you would like to work on. As you select tools from the toolbar, new sidebars will appear and offer you additional options. For example, if you choose the text tool, a sidebar will open up giving you options to change the font, text color, and other options. On the right side, each layer has unique options as well which are available from the dropdown menu. Use the up and down arrows to arrange each layer on top of the other.
For the purposes of our basic PIXLR tutorial, you can add some text to the image. When you add text, PIXLR will create a layer which is placed above the base layer. Once you have created a layer of text, you can customize the text by clicking on it and writing the text you want to display. You will see the option to choose a font, color, and text size in the sidebar next to the tool menu. Once you have entered your text,select the “Arrange” tool at the top of the toolbar to move the font to the location you would like.
Once you have done this, click the “SAVE” button at the bottom right side of the screen. Once you click the SAVE button you will be asked about the file type you would like to save. Make sure to select the PNG button and click “DOWNLOAD.” Congratulations, you have just edited a photo and saved it to your computer! Next, you will learn how to use the layering system by customizing the entire overlay image to align with the theme of your next lesson.
Advanced PIXLR Tutorial
For this advanced PIXLR tutorial, you will use PIXLR E. You can open PIXLR E from the homepage of PIXRL.com and open up your PNG file the same way you did in the basic tutorial. You will notice that PIXLR E has twice as many tools as PIXLR X. Don’t worry, there are just a couple of new tools you will need to learn about.
The main tool that you will use in the advanced tutorial is the selection “Marquee Select” tool. This tool allows you to select sections of images which is helpful for image editing. For example, perhaps you just want to copy and paste a section of one image into a layer. Or perhaps, you only want to paint one portion of an image yellow. You can use the Marquee Select tool to select the area you want to use, and then select the paint tool to fill it in. The Marquee Select tool is located in the top right section of the main toolbar. This tool will allow you to make a selection from images to copy and paste on top of your overlay to effectively “rebrand” it. In the tutorial example, there is a map of the USA that is used to rebrand the overlay image. The process of rebranding this image is simple. You can use the Marquee select tool to copy and paste the portions of images that you want to overlay on top of the original.
You can search the internet for images, use one of your own, or even use the free PIXLR stock images to find an image that will work for the branding of your next lesson. You can even include a logo or image file that you use frequently by pressing the plus button and uploading it as a new layer in your project. Once you have chosen a photo you can upload it to PIXLR using the layers section by clicking on the plus button.
When you add a layer into PIXLR, you will be asked if you want to add an empty layer, an image, or a text layer. You should select “Image” and choose the file that you want to use. Next, select the layer you have uploaded by clicking it in the right-hand side layer area. Then use the “Marquee Selection” tool to select a section that you want to cut out. Once you have an area selected, simply press “Control” + “C” on Windows or “⌘” “C” on a Mac. Once your selection has been copied, you will see a confirmation message. You can then press “Control” + “V” on Windows or “⌘” “V” on a Mac to paste a new layer of your selection into PIXLR.
You may need to adjust the size of your images using the “Arrange” tool so that they fit.
Pro Tip: You can adjust the opacity of an image so you can see the image below it in the layering system. Do this by clicking the three little dots on the layer and using the transparency slider to adjust the opacity. Then use the “Marquee Select” tool to cut out only the parts of your image that you want to put into the top and bottom of this overlay file.
Once you have done so, save the image as a PNG file. In the next chapter, you will learn how to use this image with video sources that will customize your video content.
Cropping and Resizing
For cropping and resizing purposes, after you upload an image, click the “Image” tool and then select “Crop.” With the crop tool open, all you have to do is click and drag the borders of your select to where you want to trim the image. Move the sides into your desired image crop and click “Apply” on the confirmation pop-up. When you do that, anything on the outside of your selection will be trimmed.
To resize a specific image, select the image on the layer menu bar, and choose “Resize”. When you do this, ensure that you select the “constrain proportions” option, so you do not accidentally warp your image (unless you want to). With the resize tool, you can drag the corners of an image to adjust the height or width. When done, click “Okay”, and your image will be a new size.
Painting, Drawing, and Using Filters
Learning how to use drawing tools is essential for adding a customized touch to your images. You can paint and draw on top of blank layers, or paint directly on to layers. It may be better to create a blank layer on top of an existing layer, or you can alter original layers as well.
Creating A New Layer: Before you start drawing or painting, add a new layer so you can edit it easily without altering the original. To do this, either click the little sheet of paper towards the bottom of the Layers navigation panel or go to the menu bar, click “Layer”, and then “New Layer.”
Drawing: To draw, click on the left side of the screen, where you will see a black/gray pencil tool. Just click on that when you are ready, and draw away. You can choose from various colors, line thicknesses, and opacity options. If you happen to make a mistake, use the “Undo” option from the Edit menu.
Painting: To paint, use the same resources as the drawing tools, but click on the paintbrush instead of the pencil. The paint tool allows you to choose from a variety of brushes. Painting is more practical than drawing for many projects where you want to annotate on top of an image.
Add a Filter: If you want to add a built-in filter, click on the filter menu and then browse the filters to find one that you want to use. Once you find the one you like, hit “Okay” to apply it. You can also change the color and brightness of the filter under the “Adjustment” option to customize the image.
To add text to your image, click on the Text icon at the bottom of the left-side toolbar. With the cursor on the screen, click anywhere on the image where you want to type. A text box will appear when you do this, and you can insert your text here. When you are done, you can also play around with the font, size, alignment, and color while still in this mode.
If you are a teacher who has struggled with photo editing and didn’t want to spend hours navigating the complexities of Photoshop, then PIXLR is for you. It is entirely free, has diverse capabilities, and can transform any photos you choose to make lasting impressions on your students. Once you have familiarized yourself with PIXLR’s features, don't be afraid to play around with it to see just how beneficial it can be for the classroom.
PIXLR is a great tech tool for education and is a free alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Learn how to use PIXLR to create customized lesson graphics, edit, and customize mages.
Now let's get a little more advanced with PIXLR. You can leverage these skills to create a branded version of this PNG overlay file. As an exercise, try to create your own as you follow along.
Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is a free video production software that can be used with Mac, PC, or Linux computers. OBS has become the world’s most popular live video production software partly because of how powerful it is and partly because it is free. I have written a book entirely dedicated to OBS called The Unofficial Guide to Open Broadcaster Software, and included the PDF copy of the book with the UDEMY course that accompanies this book. In this chapter, you will become familiar and proficient with OBS for the purposes of recording short videos for your classes. You will learn how to use multimedia sources, including video clips, pictures, websites, overlays, webcams, document cameras, and more to create engaging videos that students will enjoy. The main reason I recommend OBS for video creation is because it does not require post-production which is a time-consuming process most educators would rather not deal with. Yes, this approach takes some up-front learning, but once you create the structure, you can use it over and over again to make customized video content for online courses.
Get started with OBS by downloading the software at OBSProject.com. Once installed, you will see an interface that features a main video area in the middle, and multiple widget areas below. The first area of interest is the scenes tab which is located in the bottom left by the default. OBS organizes your projects into scenes which you can think about as individual canvases. Each scene is made up of sources which you can organize into a cohesive scene. In this way, you can add multiple “sources” with the plus button at the bottom of the sources areas and they will be added to the scene that you have selected.
OBS offers you an in-depth list of media options you can use for sources including websites, screen captures, text, video, cameras, and more. Each scene can be transitioned in between while you record a video meaning you can start a recording in one scene and then switch between them during your recording. Therefore, you can create a scene to introduce your online lesson, a scene with a fun branded layout, and finally an “outro” or concluding scene.
In this tutorial example, you will create four scenes that include an introductory video clip, a dynamic layout where you mix together video sources with a custom PNG file, and a final outro video clip. The options for organizing scenes are truly endless, and the purpose of this tutorial is to focus on some simple workflows that will enhance your video creation opportunities in a meaningful way. For example, your intro and outro scenes might just be your webcam source in full screen mode. Yet, I challenge you to use a PNG file to add some flair to each scene in order to help students identify the beginning and final scenes for each of your lessons.
Pro Tip: Your webcam video will likely be widescreen in a 16:9 format. Therefore, create a PNG file in PIXLR with a rectangle cut out of the center to create an overlay that you can use for your intro and outro scenes. Consider starting with a stock photo or a color from your course theme. Then use the “Marquee Select” tool to select a rectangle in the middle of your image. Finally, use the “Eraser” tool to erase the selected area. When you save your PNG file, you can upload it to OBS and use it as a layer on top of your webcam.
At the top of the OBS interface you will find the main dropdown menu. In the bottom right corner, you will find the main action buttons which include the “Start Recording” button and the “Settings” button.
Pro Tip: When you first install OBS, a configuration wizard will ask you if you would like to optimize OBS for live streaming or video recordings. Choose video recordings and the software will optimize your settings for recording videos onto your computer directly.
One of the reasons educators should be excited about OBS is the fact that a simple webcam and microphone setup can actually look really good. Even at a time when students' expectations for video content have increased due to Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, your video content will stand out with a little upfront planning.
In fact, you may be surprised that more technically-inclined middle school, high school, and college students may actually know about OBS. It is quite popular with students who play esports and it is becoming more widely adopted with those interested in live streaming and video recording. Regardless, the process of customizing scenes inside of OBS should be fun and enables you to produce engaging, fresh, and visually appealing video in a few short steps.
As you can see from the picture above, most live audio and video sources that are used with OBS are connected to your computer via USB. One basic setup example is a USB microphone and a USB webcam. Another might use a USB webcam for both audio and video, with the addition of a USB-connected document camera. Using the features inside of OBS, you will be able to mix a webcam and a document camera together to create a scene that looks like the picture below.
Pro Tip: OBS has a plugin that adds NDI (Network Device Interface) functionality which allows you to use your camera as a second webcam. You can use your local area network (LAN) and wireless network (WiFi) with the NDI app on your smartphone, to use your webcam as a video source in OBS. This is demonstrated in the online course and it opens up many creative storytelling options for you. An example use might be showing your class an exercise from the perspective of your phone. Another example could be for showing content from your phone inside of your videos in real-time. Assuming that your computer is on the same network as your smartphone, you can easily use the NDI app for your smartphone to bring live video into your OBS scenes. (The NDI smartphone apps are currently only available for iOS users).
Let’s get started:
Start by creating a scene to work with. You should always name your scenes with short and memorable names. Create an intro scene. For this example, you simply need to bring your webcam into this scene. Sources can be added to a scene in the sources box next to the scenes box, by clicking the plus button. If you would like to create a custom PNG file to frame your webcam source you can do this in PIXLR and add it to your scene as a layer on top of your webcam source.
To create the scene above, you will need to add three sources. When you click the sources button you will be given a list of media types to choose from. Start with the “Image” option and upload the PNG overlay image that you created in the previous chapter with PIXLR. Notice that each time you add a source, OBS will ask you to name the source. Stay organized, and name each source something unique.
Next you can add another source called “webcam” by selecting the “Video Capture Device” option from the sources list. This will bring up a window with a dropdown selection area that will give you a list of all webcams available to your computer. Once you select your webcam you can click “OK” and the video from your webcam will show up in the scene. You should notice a red outline around any source that you have selected. There are little boxes at the corners of each source selection that you can use to click and drag to resize the source. You can also move the source around by simply clicking and dragging it. You will notice that OBS will “snap” the source to edges within the scene to make lining up sources inside of your scene easier.
Pro Tip: You will notice an eye symbol and a lock symbol next to each source in OBS. Click the eye symbol to hide or show a given source. The lock symbol can be used to lock a source in place so that you do not accidentally move it once it is in place.
You will also notice that there are up and down arrows in the sources area that can be used to layer sources inside your scene. In most scenes, you will want your PNG overlay file to appear on the top layer. Use your mouse to click individual sources and use the arrows to change the sources layer. Move your sources around until you have properly fit the webcam video source into the correct area of your overlay file.
You can also crop your webcam on either side of the image using the filters feature inside of OBS. You might want to do this in order to better fit your webcam video into the PNG overlay that you are using. To do this, right click the webcam source and select filters. This will open up a filters area where you can click a plus button to add a variety of effects on your selected source. Click the “Crop/Pad” option to open up options for cropping your webcam. For this overlay format, crop your video input up to 500 pixels from the right and left sides to center your video.
Next, bring in another source to fill the large area of the overlay with either a presentation or a document camera. To add in a presentation as your source in the scene, use the “Window Capture” option and bring that source into your scene. To bring a document camera into your scene, use the “Video Capture Device” option.
Pro Tip: Duplicate any scene you have started by right clicking it and selecting the duplicate option. This way you can have a scene that focuses on the document camera video source, and one that focuses on a presentation, but you don’t need to recreate everything.
It’s almost time to start creating a video but first, you should add an intro scene, possibly a video clip, and an outro scene to complete your workflow. An intro scene could simply be your webcam full-screen or you can create a custom overlay file to accompany your webcam. If you would like to do something a little more engaging and similar to what your students see from their favorite YouTube creators, consider capturing an introductory video clip from your smartphone in a fun and inspiring location.
Once you have that video clip recorded, upload it to your computer. You can then create a scene and add the video clip to OBS using the “Media Source” option in the sources area. You can also create a custom video clip for the outro of your video, or you can use a webcam source. Whatever you decide, create a scene using the plus button in the scenes area for your intro and outro scenes. You will use this scene to open and conclude your videos.
The last thing you need to do before recording your video is to make sure your microphone is set up properly. To do this, click on the “Settings” button and select the “Audio” tab. Here you can select the microphone that you want OBS to use to pick up your voice throughout your video recordings. Find your microphone from the drop-down menu and click save.
The audio mixer for OBS will allow you to quickly see the audio that is being recorded for your videos. It is located in the center of OBS at the bottom. The default “Desktop Audio” will include anything that is playing on your computer, including a YouTube video, for example. Your “Mix/Aux” is your microphone input that has been selected in the OBS audio settings. You can always temporarily mute your microphone by clicking the speaker icon. You can also click the cog button to open up advanced settings for your audio sources.
Pro Audio Tip #1: You may want to add 50-100 milliseconds (less than one-tenth of second) of latency to your audio source. If you notice that your audio and video do not match up perfectly in your recorded videos this is a simple way to fix it.
Pro Audio Tip #2: Audio sources can have filters applied to them just like sources in your scenes. You can increase your audio quality by adjusting some of the available filters. For example, your voice may sound better with a little bit of compression. Open up “Advanced Audio Properties” and set up your audio source for monitoring to hear your voice and make adjustments to it.
Another quick item to check in the settings area is the “Output” tab. Here you can set up which folder you would like your recorded videos to be saved into. You can select a few different recording qualities and formats. I suggest using the MP4 file type because it provides a great quality to file size ration. Check to make sure everything is set to 1920x1080p at 30fps in the “Video” tab. You can reduce this down to 1280x720p at 30fps if your computer is not able to record full HD video. You can always monitor the CPU usage of OBS in the bottom right hand corner of OBS. If your CPU usage goes over 50-75%, you will likely need to reduce your video recording settings or check to see if other computer programs are running at the same time and competing for resources on your computer.
Pro Tip: One part of OBS that is not 100% intuitive is the video bit rate option. Video bit rates are essentially the amount of data that is used to make up the quality of your video. The higher the bit rate, the higher the quality. But high bit rates also increase video file sizes and computer processing requirements.
Ok, it’s time to create your first video in OBS. Here are a few simple steps to follow:
Step 1: Visualize the way you want your video to look and feel.
Step 2: Create the scenes necessary for your lesson.
Step 3: Add the sources necessary for each scene and lock them into place.
Step 4: Practice your flow, clicking each scene button to transition through your lesson.
Step 5: Create a practice recording. Press the record button and start your lesson.
Step 6: Watch your lesson video. Locate your video in the folder selected in the “Output” area of OBS’s settings.
Step 7: Determine if you like your video enough to use for your online course. If not, consider re-recording it.
When you are using OBS you are able to create videos in a live production environment. That means once you press record, you can switch between each scene simply by clicking on the buttons available in the scenes area. Everything you see in that center video area is what is being recorded along with the microphone that you have selected.
Once you are recording, it is very easy to click the various scene buttons to switch between an intro video and scene that features your document camera, for example. As you switch between scenes you should be able to continue your lessons and teach while maintaining a presence on video with your webcam. This process will take some time to get used to but you should be able to create presentations that make students feel connected to you as a teacher. Your presence on camera can create a connection with students that can prompt them to reach out to you for advice. Remember that each student will have a personal journey with your video content as they watch. You can ask them to engage with your online lessons, comment on specific topics, or bring ideas to an upcoming collaboration session. You may find yourself creating additional scenes inside of OBS to switch between in order to make your videos more interesting.
Pro Tip: OBS feature shortcuts that can be used to switch between scenes. Therefore, you can set up keys on your keyboard to switch between scenes without having to click inside of OBS with your mouse. In this way, you can assign numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 on your keyboard to switch between scenes for you as you teach.
Create compelling video clips for your students and incorporate them into your lessons and classes.
OBS is free and it can be used to create dynamic video for online lessons.
Go to OBSproject.com to download OBS. View a demo of OBS to get started using it.
OBS can be used for live productionso there is no need for time-consuming post-production.
You can use PIXLR to create visually pleasing overlays with OBS, and then you will have dynamic scenes for your videos.
You can follow along with Video 14 in the online course to see exactly how to set up your next OBS video recording environment.
Taking a step back from your lecture capture and content creation process to reflect on storytelling capabilities is helpful. Before you spend too much time creating content, consider taking a moment to reflect on the online materials you are creating. Post-production software, for example, can allow you to stitch together multiple video clips and edit out parts of a video that didn’t work during a recording session. In a perfect world, there is no need for post-production because the videos that you recorded using a live production software like OBS have come out beautifully. But it will take time before you can create videos in a live setting that are usable on a consistent basis.
It’s worth noting that all of the videos recorded for the online course that accompanies this book were shot in one take. For some of the videos, you may have noticed that I added short examples after the original lesson had been recorded. You should consider balancing the idea of simply starting over from scratch, and using post-production software to fix an issue with a recorded video. As you start learning how to create video content for your online courses, first think about starting over and trying to capture the essence of your video in a live setting. Yes, it is nice to be able to add finishing touches to a video once it has been recorded, but the core message of your presentation may deserve a second take entirely. If you believe that you have the best possible recording, and still want to enhance your video, then it’s time to use a video editing software such as iMovie, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, or EZVid.
Focus on Storytelling
At a high level, you are beginning to become a visual storyteller and trying to help your students learn through engaging content that you created. One of the great things about storytelling is that there is a proven storytelling method that can be broken down into several important parts. From an educational perspective you are the guide, and the student is the hero. The videos that you create are an important asset that you can use to position yourself as the guide in the minds of your students.
The Classic Story Outline
A Character (This is your student)
Has a Problem (This is the characters challenge)
A Guide (This is you)
A Plan (This is your lesson plan)
A Call to Action (This is the assignment you make)
Has a Success (This is the successful completion of your course)
Or has a Failure (This is the failure of your course)
You can think about storytelling in reference to Star Wars. For example, Luke Skywalker is the hero. Luke meets Obi Wan Kinobi who is Skywalker's guide. Without Obi Wan, Skywalker is unable to achieve his destiny of becoming a jedi master. In storytelling, a hero generally meets a guide, who helps the hero overcome obstacles on the way to a successful outcome. Successful stories personify each step along this journey in great detail. Educators can learn to tell compelling stories that their students will fall in love in and out of the online classroom.
Consider personifying a villain in your storytelling. Perhaps the villain in a story about math education is a person who steals money from the hero because the hero does not know how to properly count. Perhaps the villain in a social studies course, is a government official who proposes unjust policies because they are unaware of the effect of these policies on human society. Properly personifying a villain will help your students understand what they are up against and prepare to overcome it.
Storytelling is an important part of video-making.
In your online lessons, you are the guide. The students are the heroes.
Try adapting your video-making style to incorporate classic storytelling methods that help students connect to the content.
Drake Finney, a high school teacher taking online education with his students to new heights, explains why educators shouldn't be afraid to try new things. Finney has a list of tips you can review to learn about what is working in online education.